Idaho high school latest to remove controversial 'Redskins' nickname

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Teton High School will no longer be the <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/washington/" data-ylk="slk:Redskins">Redskins</a> after a board vote. (Getty Creative)
Teton High School will no longer be the Redskins after a board vote. (Getty Creative)

An Idaho high schools board of education made the “moral and ethical” decision to drop its controversial Native American mascot name after 90 years of use.

The Teton High School will no longer be the Redskins after the board voted, 4-1, to discontinue it after a student editorial, months of debate and walkouts during the four-hour meeting. Local tribes near Driggs, Idaho — located outside of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming — also lobbied for a change.

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Idaho school drops ‘Redskins’

The name has been controversial for at least a decade, with superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme ordered it to be changed in 2013. It continued to come up at board meetings, in polls and in the student newspaper, which will change its name from “The War Cry,” per the Statesman.

The Tuesday meeting was held after an initial vote was tabled and a work session held so each board member could speak with five groups of residents to hear their thoughts. In total the two board meetings lasted 10 hours, per the Statesman, with hundreds in attendance.

Board member Mary Mello told the Idaho Statesman:

“I believe it’s a moral and ethical decision. It was a very hard one for our board. I felt like we needed to remember what we’re charged to do. We’re charged to make the best decision we can based on facts and not individuals or special interest groups.

“And our No. 1 overriding goal in our school district policy and code of ethics is to always make the best decision we can for our students.”

The one member who voted nay said he wanted to see a compromise and didn’t believe it was good to “leave voices behind” by “moving too fast.”

A search for the next mascot will be led by the community and the motion stipulates that taxpayer money will not be used for the replacement costs. Woolstenhulme told the Statesman it will cost around $30,000 to replace all the uniforms and remove signage. The district could apply for at least 11 different grants to raise the funds, he said.

Tribes ask for new mascots

The issue resurfaced in Diggs when a resident raised the issue at the end of a March board meeting, according to the Teton Valley News. Crockett said the news of Virginia governor Ralph Northam wearing “blackface” in his yearbook made her rethink what was happening at the school.

The Shoshone-Bannock and the Nez Perce tribes have spoken against the name and representatives addressed the Idaho state legislature in 2014 about it.

The term “redskin” derived from a time when the U.S. government offered bounties for Indian scalps to rid the country of Native Americans.

Shoshone-Bannock Tribes representative Nathan Small told the legislature, per the Idaho State Journal:

“And that’s where the ‘redskin’ name came from. And so, when you look at something like that, it’s about dead people, dead Indians. And, how can you name yourself something like that and be proud of that and have all the school pride for it?”

It is one of the five main reasons the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) says Redskins is a “racist and ugly word.” The NCAI issued a 29-page report in 2013 about the Washington Redskins name.

More high schools change nicknames

High schools are increasingly dropping Native American nicknames. As of February 2018, at least 13 have stopped using the name “Redskins” since 2013, per the Associated Press. Through 2017 at least 49 high schools in 20 different states still used nicknames considered a racist slur, down from 93 before 1990, per the AP.

Eleven high schools in Idaho still have Native American mascots, according to the Statesman. The tribes said during Teton’s debate period it would start a statewide push to change them, per the Teton Valley News. The Pocatello High School Indians principal believes his situation is different than that of the former Redskins.

The MLB’s Cleveland Indians decided in January 2018 to end their use of the “Chief Wahoo” logo. The Native American caricature was deemed “no longer appropriate” and had been controversial for some time. The logo was around for 70 years. Meanwhile in the NFL, the Washington Redskins are unlikely to change their name under owner Dan Snyder.

(H/T USA Today High School Sports)

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